If you find yourself playing a lot of games on your phone that use virtual joystick controls, one of the best investments you can make is in a dedicated mobile controller. Many major peripheral brands have been revealing their own, like Gamesir’s controller grip for iPhones, the X2 Lightning Mobile Gaming Controller.
Like Razer’s Kishi, the X2 is a plastic grip in which you insert your phone, turning it into a Switch-esque handheld. Unlike the Kishi, however, the X2 feels very sturdy in your hands. While the competition had me worried I might snap the whole thing in half, Gamesir’s alternative feels even more secure than an OG Switch.
Its body stretches, allowing you to pull the right side out and fit it around your iPhone, depending on its size. Models up to 173 mm are compatible, which means you can slot in your new iPhone 13 Pro Max with room to spare. This might prove somewhat unwieldy, however. My iPhone XS sits comfortably, but I can see how some juggling could be required to slot bigger models in while pulling the grip apart. It’s especially difficult to avoid hitting your side buttons in the process, as well.
To make this process a little easier, the Lightning port can swivel upward. I found it best to plug my iPhone in at a 45° angle, then pull the grip open and let the device slip down. Once it’s in, it’s easy to perfect its positioning, and you’re set for an extended gaming session. The connection is relatively solid, but I would have preferred a more definitive click, like when plugging in a charge cable.
However, it’s worth noting that you’ll have to remove your iPhone from whatever case it’s in beforehand. Even my modest Otterbox case was enough of a barrier to prevent the phone from plugging in properly. The X2 feels secure enough to hold together if you should happen to drop it, but you do need to be mindful that your device will be free of its usual protection.
“Ergonomically, the X2 Lightning Mobile Gaming Controller is a pretty solid controller.”
Ergonomically, the X2 Lightning Mobile Gaming Controller is a pretty solid controller. Trying to manipulate multiple shoulder triggers simultaneously is a bit cramped for my large hands, but otherwise the buttons are laid out well. The Switch-style offset joysticks are responsive and clickable for L3/R3 functions. Screenshot and turbo buttons round out the package.
Most of the buttons are fairly noisy, however. At times, I had trouble getting games to recognize when I was tilting up or down on the left stick—for instance, in the port of Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Sonic would keep moving forward when I intended to make him stop and crouch. This may be a glitch on the software side, it’s hard to tell.
As grips go, the X2 outdoes Razer’s Kishi in every way. The latter has a great collapsible design for more portability, but the security of the device is more important by far. Gamesir makes up for this by including the controller in a hardshell carrying case, featuring a strap to hold the device and a pocket for any other small accessories you may be transporting. It doesn’t fold in half like a Transformer, but it’s a nice compromise that didn’t inflate the price.
As mobile controllers go, however, the X2 doesn’t dethrone the SteelSeries Nimbus+ in my books—a full-fledged Bluetooth controller with a simpler mount. It doesn’t require you to remove your phone from the case and wrestle it into a vice-like frame, proves just as sturdy, and can be used with a broader range of devices.
And of course, the usual caveat applies: you only need a mobile peripheral like this if you have the right software. Controller support is growing, but a lot of games are still touch-only, particularly those of the gacha variety. If you’re playing Apple Arcade or one of the ever-expanding list of cloud gaming services with your iPhone, the X2 Lightning Mobile Gaming Controller would be a worthwhile investment.